Employment Writing AdviceEmployment, Writing, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

Internship Cover Letters: What To Write When You Have No Experience


Applying for any job can be challenging, but applying for an internship position brings some unique challenges of its own. Specifically, internships are usually offered for college students or law students who are looking to get their first experience in a particular field. Often, internships are highly competitive and require the applicants to be interested in a specific field. One tool to get noticed through the crowd even when you don't have experience is to have a stand-out cover letter.

What is a cover letter? A cover letter is an email or letter that accompanies your resume on internship applications. This document highlights the important skills, experience, and other qualifications that are directly related to the internship you are applying for. The cover letter should explain why you are the perfect fit for the position by connecting your qualities to the responsibilities of the internship.

An engaging cover letter is one of the best ways to make yourself stand out, but how do you do that when you have no experience? In this post, we will explore various parts of a cover letter and how to write it to highlight transferrable skills, your intent in the industry, and your passion.

No experience? No problem!

Just because you don't have experience doesn't mean you don't have anything to say on a cover letter. Consider the cover letter as an opportunity to show why you deserve that internship. You have skills that you have developed throughout your life to that point, and this is the perfect opportunity to showcase those skills alongside your interests and goals.

The first step in creating an internship cover letter with no experience is to research the company you are applying to. Carefully review the internship details and responsibilities and make note of key terms and skills they require or expect in that position. This is important, because you want to directly connect the internship and company requirements with your skills, interests, and goals. For example, if the internship position is at a law firm, they may be looking for someone with the ability to manage records and filing documents. You would use that information to highlight your organization skills.

Here is an example of the requirements section in a job post for a Legal Intern at Dataiku:

  • Pursuing a J.D. or LL.M degree from an A.B.A. accredited law school
  • Authorized to work in the United States
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Detail oriented and highly organized
  • Self-starter who can meet deadlines

The bold words are examples of transferrable skills that you likely already have. In a cover letter for this position, one would want to write that they are detail oriented and are dedicated to meeting deadlines. This will communicate specifically that you have the exact skills they require in this internship.

Some types of skills you will likely need to showcase include:

  • Problem solving
  • Adaptability
  • Time management
  • Organization
  • Verbal communication
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Customer service
  • Computer skills
  • Technical skills
  • Sales
  • Marketing skills
  • Reporting
  • Budgeting
  • Critical thinking
  • Conceptual skills

Note that you always want to customize your cover letter for each internship you are applying for.

One additional reason to do some research before writing your cover letter is that job application websites and human resources software now automatically filter applications based on certain keywords. This type of service is called Applicant Tracking Software (ATS). ATS is designed to help hiring managers filter through applications and save time in the hiring process. But if your cover letter and resume don't use the same keywords as the internship job post, then your application might get lost or ignored by the ATS.

What to write

The steps of making a cover letter are pretty straightforward, but each part is important when appealing to internships.

1. Contact information

You want the internship hiring manager to have no trouble contacting you, so be sure to list your contact information at the top of the cover letter. You will need to include your name, phone number, and email address. Place this information in the top left corner of the letter or, if you are feeling particularly professional, place it in the header in a letterhead format.

2. Employer information

Add the current date, and then if you know the employer's name and address add that under the date. This makes your cover letter more formal and professional.

3. Greeting

Add a salutation, such as "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Hiring Manager." If you know the name of the hiring manager, then use their name in the salutation. It is always a good idea to do some research to find out the hiring manager's name, if possible. This shows that you have researched the company and are very interested in their company.

4. Introduction

Next, you want to introduce yourself. Tell them your name and what internship you are interested in. Express your excitement about the opportunity. You may also want to specify how you heard about the internship, especially if you heard about it through someone who works at the company. Internships are often given to people who have contacts within a company, so don't be afraid to leverage your connections. This also shows resourcefulness. This paragraph should be no more than three sentences.

Example: "My name is Marissa Knightley, and I am excited to apply for the private detective internship at the Hidden Secrets Detective Agency. I heard about this internship from my friend, Nick Cross, who is a former client of yours. I believe my strong time-management and organization skills will help me excel in this internship."

5. Tell them your skills

Once you have introduced yourself, it's time for you to shine. This is where you will connect your skills with the internship requirements. With no applicable work experience to mention, instead talk about your education that has led you to this point, and maybe talk about some specific courses that have prepared you for the internship. If you have received any awards or achievements that would show relevance to the company, then include those as well. For example, if you were the president of a club at your college, discuss how that experience helped you develop leadership skills that will directly apply to the internship position. Keep this paragraph to five or six sentences.

Example: "As a recent graduate from the University of Maine, I gained strong researching experience through my journalism major, and further learned critical thinking skills with my criminology minor. As the president of the criminal investigations club, I led my fellow students in investigative journeys and communicated regularly with campus police and administrators. I can apply these same skills in this internship."

6. Tell them why you are the best fit

This third paragraph is where you will tell the hiring manager why you are the best fit for this internship. Write about how you share specific values or goals as the company, and express what it is you want to learn that they have to offer. If you read about the company on their website, let them know that. Getting an internship may rely more on your dedication, interest, and excitement about the position than on any direct work experience. List some of the responsibilities from the internship post and connect them directly to your enthusiasm, goals, and transferrable skills. Tell the hiring manager that you will put your best efforts into the internship, both to learn as much as possible and to deliver high quality work. This can put you ahead of other candidates. Keep this paragraph to about four sentences.

Example: "My dedication to research, organization, and communication within tight deadlines make me the perfect candidate for this internship. If I were selected to work as a private detective intern, I would enjoy expanding my skills in both office administration, client communication, and research. Your website mentions your passion for helping your clients get accurate information for their business and personal needs. I share this passion with you, as I felt very motivated to participate in the criminal investigations club to bring true and accurate information into the light."

7. Anticipate an interview

In this last paragraph, tell the hiring manager once more how interested you are in the internship. Then, before ending the internship cover letter, express that you would like to speak with them and ask when they might be available for an interview. Thank them for their time and consideration, then end the letter with a professional closing, such as "Sincerely."

Example: "I'm looking forward to speaking with you and learning more about your company. Thank you very much for your time and consideration. Please let me know when you are available to arrange an interview. I hope to hear from you soon."

Header photo by deagreez.

Get in-depth guidance delivered right to your inbox.